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460               HISTORY OF PERSIA
snow, and Perovski was compelled by these adverse condi-
tions to beat a retreat before even reaching the Ust-Urt
plateau, situated between the Caspian and Aral Seas. He
returned to Orenburg in June, 1840, after suffering heavy
losses.
The expedition, although it ended in complete failure,
alarmed Great Britain. With an initiative which is
astonishing. Major D'Arcy Todd, who was at the time
on his mission at Herat, despatched Captain James Abbott,
and afterwards Captain Shakespear, across a desert seven
hundred miles wide to explain to the Khan the danger of
flouting Russia. The mission of Shakespear was remark-
ably successful; for he not only induced the Khan to
release all Russian slaves, but himself conducted the
liberated captives, numbering four hundred men, women,
and children, to Orenburg, a very notable feat.
In the autumn of 1840 a second expedition was being
organized against Khiva by Russia, but was rendered un-
necessary by the submission of the Uzbeg chief. Finally,
in 1842, Russia concluded a treaty with him, by the terms
of which slave-dealing was to be abolished in Khiva and
inroads on Russian territory were to be prevented.
The Russian Advance to the Sea of Aral^ 1847.—In the
succeeding decade Russia set to work gradually and
systematically to occupy the great Kirghiz desert from
the Ural River to the Sea of Aral. In 1847 she reached
the mouth of the Sir Darya. A fort was erected at this
point and a second in a harbour of the Sea of Aral, from
which that important sheet of water was surveyed.
The Occupation of the Valley of the Sir Darya^ 1849-
1864.—By her occupation of the mouth of the Sir Darya
Russia was brought into contact with the Khanate of
Khokand, whose hostility was aroused by the Muscovite
invasion of her territory. In 1849 one of the forts of
this little state was captured. Four years later a further
advance was made : Ak Masjid, two hundred and twenty
miles up the river, was taken, Fort Perovski was founded
on its ruins, and the line of the Sir Darya was established.
The Crimean War broke out shortly afterwards, and
Russia made no forward step for some years, but de-